‘A one-off who will be sadly missed’

TRIBUTES have been paid to former BBC cameraman John Waters who passed away last Thursday, aged 79.

John was a familiar face throughout Shetland having covered most of the major news stories since the early 1990s.

Media colleagues share many fond memories of John Waters (1943 – 2023), seen here during the Tall Ships Races in 2011. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Original from Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, he arrived in Shetland in 1969 to look after the new VHF radio and TV transmitter on Ward Hill in Bressay and never left again.

His technical abilities and his willingness to help wherever possible were much sought after, and it was John’s expertise and his resourcefulness that over the years kept cameras recording and radio stations transmitting.

John was instrumental in helping to get the local BBC station on air in the late 1970s, and for many decades he filmed the entire Lerwick Up Helly Aa celebrations from behind the scenes.

In recent years, he became a qualified and licensed drone operator and Shetland News is most grateful for all the wonderful and spectacular aerial shots he provided of last month’s Tall Ships Races.

Having known him for about 50 years, retired journalist and former BBC radio producer Jonathan Wills recalled John’s sense of humour.

“John loved a joke (particularly at the expense of pompous officialdom) and revelled in the company of friends who shared his sense of humour.”

He added: “Long after he had officially retired from the BBC, John could be found at Radio Shetland, sitting in as studio engineer for evening programmes such as Catgut and Ivory, presented by his friends Gussie Angus and Cecil Hughson, for the annual Children in Need marathon show and on other special occasions. He was a local radio institution.”

Senior producer at BBC Radio Shetland John Johnston described him as a good friend and a very loyal colleague.

“As a broadcast engineer, he kept Radio Shetland on air in the early days and was always on hand to sort out any technical problems.

“As the BBC’s cameraman for Shetland, he was one of the first people on the scene of the big stories, including the grounding of the Braer oil tanker.

“We worked closely together on many television stories over the last 30 years, including the klondykers going ashore around Lerwick Harbour, lifeboat rescues, many elections, the lighter features and of course not forgetting the Lerwick Up Helly Aa.

“We jumped on boats, planes, helicopters, ran up hills, and took cover from the driving rain on many occasions to capture the story.

“John was always there with his jar of chocolate orange biscuits to fuel us through the long hours out on a story. He was a one-off and will be sadly missed.”

Owner of Millgaet Media, Malcolm Younger, described John as a work colleague and a very good friend.

“We worked together all the time, John with the BBC and me with STV since 1989.

“He was truly helpful and supportive. A true friend who will be missed with his many regular visits to our offices. Many fond memories that will be truly treasured. Sadly gone but never forgotten.”

Shetland News